By Curtis D. Bennett
Inside the gray, steel womb of cargo space.
Flag covered caskets lay quietly
In rank and file, line on line in silence.
Bound together once more in tight military formation
Flags of blood reds, cloud whites and ocean blues,
Drape the dull, pewter boxes.
Encasing broken, hallowed remains
Of dead young boys and girls,
Forced to pay the ultimate price
In this foreign land with strange people,
Where brutal death forever lurks,
Beneath the surface, around the corner,
Watching, with cold eyes that never sleep.
Outside, hot desert night winds
Sweep down from the northern mountains
In biting, stinging clouds of dust
Blowing and swirling dusty tarmac, ruffling flags.
Steel, hydraulic doors whine and close tight
Sealing their precious cargo inside.
Engines come to life and rumble the air,
The huge air transport trundles away
Disappearing in the darkness on the taxiway.
Moments later, reemerging, a roaring shadow
That races, lifts climbing sharply up and away
Into the night air to seek the stars.
Floating suspended between earth and sky
The westbound plane heads for the full moon.
Carrying its sleeping, youthful cargo home.
To the land that gave them birth,
To the parents who loved and raised them,
To the government who sent them to fight,
And the politicians who killed them.
The setting moonlight blankets the caskets,
So quietly they lie, so well they sleep,
With no more promises to keep,
No more miles to go.
-- Curtis D. Bennett lives in Lawrence.